Many say that we, protectors of Mauna Kea, are against science. Some even say we are against jobs, or against an improved economy. This is not true. Those are straw men.

Those who think and say we are against science are not being honest. We know that science and our economy are vital. There is a rightful place for science, technology, new industry, more jobs, an improved economy in the state of Hawaii and on Hawaii island. And we support that.

But there are some things that are more important than science, astronomy, and a better economy, and those things will always be more important. And everybody knows that.

The Hawaii farmer knows that, the shopkeeper, the policeman and the banker know that; the state and county employee, the Realtor, the fisherman, the rancher, the doctor and the lawyer all know that; the artist and the construction worker, the teacher and the journalist, the astronomers and their students know that; and the mayor, the governor, the university president, the judges, the National Guardsmen, the leaders of the Thirty Meter Telescope, you and I and the people of Hawaii, we all know that some things are more important than science, more important than jobs and careers, more important than economic progress.

But — now these things are vulnerable.

Lone demonstrator holds a Hawaiian flag near the summit of Mauna Kea as hundreds of protestors lined the road down at the visitor's center. 24 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
A lone demonstrator holds a Hawaiian flag near the summit of Mauna Kea on June 24. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

So, what are some of these things?

  1. Our relationships with each other: do we treat one another with respect, tolerance, kindness and generosity; in a word, with aloha?
  2. Our relationship to our environment, to the land and sea, the ‘aina: do we treat it with respect, honor and nurturance, as the living body that we depend upon for our physical, emotional and spiritual survival?
  3. Our religious, spiritual, or just personal beliefs and practices: the way we perceive and experience our existential and moral relationship to the miraculous fact of being alive, now, on this place we call Earth.
  4. Our ethics and morality, our sense of fairness and justice: do we indeed treat one another fairly, are we honest, do we do what we said we would do, do we honor our agreements, do we take responsibility for our actions, are they pono?
  5. Our community: starting with ohana, expanding our ohana to neighbors, neighborhood, schools, places of worship, workplaces, places to shop, places to play, close friends, teachers, social media community; our support system, our greater ohana … our community.
  6. Our way of life, our culture: the encompassing intricate and interconnected web that includes the five timeless values above and that creates the context and values for each person’s development of his/her individuality in the common sea of all of Hawaii’s peoples.

TMT will go somewhere else if it is not built on Mauna Kea. Science and astronomy will go on, no matter what happens here. But the six value expressions above are alive for us every minute of every day, and surely they are what count the most; they give our lives integrity and sustenance in a way that astronomy or economic development never can. They are what make our lives meaningful and satisfying.

But — now they have been wounded, damaged by shortsighted economic decisions, and at this time we are all wounded, torn by conflict.

A Unifying Force

The fact is that Mauna Kea, before the telescopes, was a magnificent unifying force for the people of Hawaii. Everybody loved, was awe-struck and inspired by Mauna Kea, its beauty, its inaccessibility and challenge, its larger-than-life majesty, its sacredness, its symbol of the highest of Hawaiian culture.

But the telescopes wounded that unifying effect. The telescopes desecrated the sacredness and the beauty, and they created conflict between economics and the very deep spiritual basis of our island way of life, conflict now between brother and sister, parent and child.

The telescopes wounded the heart of the culture of Hawaii — and the wound has not only deepened day by day, but with at least 10 more years of construction and the same duration of continued, expanding protest, a whole new generation of Hawaii’s youth is on the verge of becoming more deeply embroiled in cultural conflict.

Is this healthy for Hawaii? Is it worth it?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

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About the Author

  • G. P. Tama
    G. P. Tama has been a resident of Hawaii Island since 2004 and is a former editor of the Hawaii Homegrown Food Network. He graduated with a physics major from Cornell University, whose faculty at the time included the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Hans Bethe, the astrophysicist Thomas Gold and the renowned astronomer Carl Sagan.